Sitting in the dark on the job for two days, one has time for contemplation. Because I was sitting in the dark as a result of a major storm, disaster response has been on my mind. I'm going to riff off of one of the last blog posts I read before losing the electricity, Bette Noir's "compare and contrast" post about President Obama's approach to disaster relief and Mitt Romney's statements about disaster relief in one of the primary debates. Here's an excerpt from the transcript of the debate, hosted by CNN's John King:
“FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role,” Mr. King said. “How do you deal with something like that?”
Romney’s response: "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.
“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut – we should ask ourselves the opposite question,” Romney continued. “What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in. We cannot ...”
King interjected: “Including disaster relief, though?”
Romney replied: “We cannot – we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all.”
A quick glance at the map of Superstorm Sandy demonstrates the stupidity of Mitt Romney's proposal for diminishing the role of the federal government in disaster response. Hurricane Sandy was a vast storm which ravaged the Atlantic Coast of the United States from North Carolina to Massachusetts, with lesser, though significant effects felt as far west as Ohio. Simply put, the storm was too vast for any single state to be able to handle disaster response and relief. Damage to the infrastructure within a state hampers the coordination of relief efforts. Even now, days after the storm, there are communication problems (I have electricity, and I am having problems getting through on the phone for various reasons, those without power are even worse off). In much of the New York tri-state area, gasoline is in short supply. To put the burden of disaster relief on the overburdened states is asinine. Just because I want to twist the knife, so to speak, Mitt Romney's record as a governor responding to a natural disaster is not a good one.
In times of disaster, it is important to remember the original motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "out of many, one". Combined, the states form a more powerful whole. In times of natural disaster, the federal government can coordinate the response more readily than the states which have been hit. The United States is a vast country, the nature of disasters differs from location to location- while different states can concentrate on their areas of expertise, a central coordinating agency is better able to marshal resources that will be needed after local resources are exhausted.
To compound Romney's idiocy, his assertion that he'd rather have the private sector administer disaster responses is truly a howler. Of course, Romney's not really an idiot- he's the sort of sociopath who would prefer that there's an executive skimming off the top when funds are allocated for disaster aid. If Romney gets elected president, expect well-connected wealthy insiders to get even wealthier on the misery of disaster victims. In anticipation of such a (literal) windfall, Jeb Bush has founded a for-profit disaster response corporation. If disaster response is privatized, there will be a two-tier approach to relief and recovery operations- the rich folks will be whisked out of the disaster area in luxurious helicopters with fully-stocked bars while Joe and Jane Schmo will die horribly... the executives have to make a profit, after all. I imagine Jeb Bush's privatized disaster response will be just as successful as his brother George's privatized war.
In the '90's the town of Rye Brook, New York decided to experiment with privatized firefighting services. The private firefighting corporation cut corners with wages, ensuring that the workers were poorly-trained and had a high turnover rate, and they refused to engage in a mutual assistance agreement with neighboring municipalities, and the result was disastrous. Imagine how poorly a private corporation, with an eye towards maximizing profits, would handle a disaster of the magnitude of a Sandy.
Hopefully, the example of Sandy will wake voters who would vote for Mitt Romney out of spite. Romney is unfit to run the country- Chris Christie, a man I can't stand, has praised President Obama's disaster response and is being lambasted by his former admirers for it. Former Republican and wishy-washy "third way" flack Mike Bloomberg has endorsed President Obama's candidacy. In the face of disaster, real leadership and a genuine desire for public service is needed. Mitt Romney is a callow, hollow simulacrum of a man, and his history of failed disaster response and putting personal profits over the public need renders him unacceptable as a President.